Why Go to Church?

A popular meme has been circulating on social media lately.  The picturesque image features a lone kayaker on a secluded lake, bathed in the glow of a serene sunrise.  The caption reads:

“Religion is a person sitting in church thinking about kayaking…
Spirituality is sitting in a kayak thinking about God.”

Thousands of people have ‘liked’ and shared this post.  Apparently this idea is extremely appealing in today’s culture!  These days it’s not cool to suggest that church services are an important part of Christian living.  Having an “organic experience” with God is far more trendy than sitting in a sanctuary.

While the post may contain some truth, it’s certainly a glamorized and oversimplified version of Christianity. Yes, we can experience amazing, worshipful moments with God in nature, but taken too far, this mindset can become spiritually unhealthy.  Among other things, it downplays the importance of meeting with other believers for fellowship and growth.  It can even become an excuse not to go to church at all!  It brings us back to one of the most basic questions of our faith: is it necessary for Christians to go to church?

We all know that church attendance is not required to be a Christian, and it’s not a necessity for salvation. However, it would be nearly impossible to build a biblical argument that skipping church is what the Lord would desire for any believer.  (You might question one’s motivation to even argue that case!)  There are no obscure verses in Scripture that indicate church attendance is arbitrary or a matter of personal whim. There’s nothing to suggest that just thinking about God is a replacement for gathering together with other Christians.  In all his letters to the various New Testament churches, Paul never encouraged believers to skip church if they found it boring, had busy schedules, or needed more sleep.  In fact quite the opposite!

There are hundreds of verses that directly and indirectly support church attendance for the reasons of commitment, fellowship, growth, knowledge, good habits, emotional and spiritual support, accountability, good witness, discipleship, service to God… etc.  But let’s narrow it down to three of the most fundamental reasons why Christians should desire and seek to attend church faithfully.

1. It’s a Biblical directive.

Hebrews 10:25 - "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

You can’t get any more straightforward.  The writer of Hebrews clearly teaches that Christians should regularly meet with other believers.  Attending Sunday church services is the logical and regular way this plays out for most Christians.  If we trust the Bible as our guide, meeting with other believers for worship and teaching should be a regular pattern in our lives.

Notice the end of the verse says, “and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  In other words, this verse not only applies to us in current times, but it actually appears to be even more important today!

2. Jesus “went to church” regularly.

Luke 4:16 - “Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he'd been brought up and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath." [emphasis added]

It may sound a bit cliché, but it’s never a bad idea to ask, “What would Jesus do?”  So what would Jesus do in terms of church attendance? He’d go to church!  Many verses tell us that Jesus regularly went to the synagogue, the local place for worship and teaching.  Now, if ever there was a figure in history who didn’t really need to learn about God or visit an actual “church building” to strengthen His faith, it was Jesus!  And He didn’t just go to “church,” He was involved at the synagogue -- actively reading Scripture, teaching, and interacting with those in attendance. (Mark 1:21, Mark 6:2, Luke 6:6, Luke 13:10)

As followers of Christ, we should always seek to be more like Jesus. If Jesus went to “church,” we should desire to do the same.  Psalm 122:1 says, "I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord."

3. Our presence at church shows love and encouragement.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 - “So encourage each other and build each other up…”

Most of us will admit there are times we don’t feel like going to church.  Is a weekly trip to a specific building really that important?  Can’t we still be faithful Christians at home?  After all, we can invite some of the best Christian musicians, teachers and speakers in the world into our living rooms with a simple Wi-Fi click!

Although the internet has put many exceptional Christian resources right at our fingertips, it’s a mistake to think our decision to skip church on Sunday has no impact on anyone but ourselves.  Our simple presence in the congregation is a way to encourage and show love to other believers.

Think about it for a minute.  Aren’t you more energized and inspired when you're worshiping with fellow Christians in sincerity, or when you study together, or hear about their answers to prayer? Have you ever felt disappointed or disillusioned when certain people, friends, or relatives fail to attend church regularly?  As believers, we’re encouraged in our faith when we gather in unity.  It’s a time to recharge and refresh each other; to support others and be supported (Hebrews 12:12-13).

Faithful church attendance also motivates and lifts our Christian leaders.  Sometimes we forget that our pastors, worship leaders, church staff, musicians, teachers and other volunteers spend many hours preparing for our church services every single week.  Just as we’d be discouraged if our friends never showed up to a special dinner we made for them, so our leaders can be disheartened if we skip the services they prepare for us.  Our attendance is an encouragement to them!  Look again at the end of Hebrews 10:25: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” [emphasis added]

There are all kinds of reasons why people can’t make it to church every Sunday – perhaps health, or travel.  But if we are able, let’s follow the example of Jesus.  Let’s give our best effort to meet with other Christians often, building each other up in faith, knowledge, and love.

John 13:35 - “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

- Ron Reid

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